Five strategies to help you overcome your fear of career change

Love to make some changes in your career but feel terrified at the prospect? Read five strategies to help you overcome your fear of career change. 

Whether you’re making the decision to switch roles, return to the workforce, or make the leap from employment to freelance – a career change can be one of biggest, and scariest, decisions a person can make!

Our working lives have a huge impact on a number of other areas of our lives including our finances, social standing, family life, social life, and how we feel about ourselves overall. Work feeds massively into how we view ourselves within our communities, and as an individual.

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With so much riding on the decisions we make around our work, it’s often very easy to let fear creep in, and prevent us from pursuing the career goals we really want to achieve.

Psychologists refer to this as negativity bias. This is our brains disposition to recall negative, and unpleasant experiences much more readily than pleasant or positive ones. It’s such an automatic reflex, that it occurs at the very earliest stages of brain functioning, and is thought to be a result of our ‘flight or fight’ responses – preparing us for the worst and maximising our chances of survival.

While this can be useful in some scenarios, when it’s preventing you from achieving your goals, it’s something to be aware of and implement strategies to address!

Five strategies to help you overcome your fear of career change

When it comes to career change, we’ll tend to rely on information from our past experiences, or from the experiences of others that we’ve heard. Because we’re so dispositioned towards recalling negative information, even if we’ve had a positive previous experience, it only takes one negative story to throw you into doubt and fear.

It’s important to be aware when our brains are doing this, and not let fear get the better of you, especially when making these important decisions. Here are five strategies you can try.

1) Weigh up all the information you have

When weighing up these decisions, it can be easy to get lost in our heads and the myriad of anxious thoughts and doubts. We need to really hone in on our thinking, challenge negative thoughts and re-calibrate our mindset.

This takes more than just ‘being positive’ – it requires practical action. So create a list of all the pros and cons of the career change. Separate this into different categories – financial, social, family, personal, professional – and use this information to make informed decisions.

2) Do an emotional skills audit

Any kind of change requires practical adjustments, and emotional adjustments. A lot of the time we get focused on, and prepare adequately for, the practical changes – but we forget about our emotional wellbeing.

When facing a career change, think about what coping strategies you might need to ensure you can manage the change effectively. Allow yourself to think about ‘the worst case scenario’ and create an action plan for how you would handle this, what the appropriate actions are to minimise this happening, and how you will look after your emotional wellbeing along the way.

3) Understand why the fear exists

Basic behavioural psychological theories tell us that how we think and feel generally influences how we behave. If you get overwhelmed by negative thoughts – such as you’ll only fail, you’re not good enough, you can’t cope with the demands of a new job – that will dictate your behaviour, and you won’t reach for your goals.

Understanding this can be a huge tool in re-addressing the thoughts and starting to change them to something more motivating. A thought is just a thought after all – it can be challenged.

4) Use positive affirmation – but back it up

Positive affirmation is a handy strategy advocated for by meditation and mindfulness coaches. It’s where you say positive statements to yourself on a daily basis, even if they aren’t true. It helps to develop more positive cognitive processes and can help you to achieve the statements in real life.

This is a great way to start changing negative thoughts and fears, but it can work better if you use examples and create small, achievable goals alongside your affirmations.

A good example of this could be ‘I have endless talents, which I will begin to use today’ and stating a goal for that day – whether it’s creating a website, business logo, drafting an email pitch – whatever it is, make sure it’s something that will aid your career decision and goals.

Not sure what your next career move should be? Or even what you love doing? Take our Career Audit here and find out. 

5) Don’t fear failure

The biggest fear when it comes to making a career change is the fear of failure. The best thing to do when facing this fear down is ask yourself – so what?!

No doubt you will have faced failure at some point in your life. Did your life end? Were you stuck forever in a pit of failure? The likelihood is no you weren’t – you picked yourself up, learnt from the experience and tried again!

Our career journeys are that – journeys. They’re very rarely straight and narrow, they lead us long winding paths; some good, some bad, some dead-ends and some that are completely fulfilling. Failure holds the biggest potential for growth – it shows us where we need to spend more time improving and working on ourselves, which is never a bad thing. Embrace it!

When it comes down to making these big career decisions, ultimately you have to ask yourself not just what you might have to lose – but what have you got to gain?

As Susan Jeffers says, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Elaine Mead is a passionate education and careers consultant, and is particularly interested in empowering young women to be their professional best. You can follow her on Twitter and read more of her articles on medium.

Photo by Hailey Kean